TechAmerica: Congress key to effective procurement reform

TechAmerica's Michael Hettinger

Mike Hettinger is TechAmerica's new senior vice president for public sector.

The problems afflicting federal IT acquisition system are not incurable, according to TechAmerica's newly installed Senior Vice President for Public Sector Mike Hettinger, but they could use a strong dose of legislative medicine.

Efforts to reform federal agencies' IT acquisition have been rocked by the debacle. In the wake of the troubled project, Hettinger said, TechAmerica is working to foster congressional efforts to change acquisition rules beyond simple knee-jerk reactions to those particular failures.

During a press briefing at TechAmerica's Washington headquarters on Jan. 8, his second day on the job, Hettinger said he is looking to educate lawmakers on the intricacies of federal IT acquisition practices and facilitate a dialogue across industry, legislative and executive branch lines. has been a curse for federal IT acquisition, as well as something of a blessing, according to Hettinger.

" has fueled the most intense policy discussions over federal IT acquisition rules and law since the 1990s," he said. But he also noted that problems at the website may be specific to the project, and that larger issues with federal IT procurement aren't susceptible to simple fixes and shouldn't be approached piecemeal.

He also said the intricate nature of federal IT acquisition means only a handful of lawmakers have a full grasp of the process.

The lobbying focus for now is on efforts such as Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act. Longer term, Hettinger said, he aims to help foster a sustained effort that would address deeper systemic problems. Proposals to create a new agency that would manage large IT projects and boost the federal government's ability to hire IT specialists from private industry are steps in the right direction, he said.

But for effective reform, Congress must be involved, Hettinger said. And he knows that legislative territory. A onetime staff director of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Management, Finance and Accountability, he also served a stint as chief of staff to former Virginia Republican Rep. Tom Davis..

TechAmerica named Hettinger vice president of its public sector group in mid-December as the organization began a legal battle with rival Information Technology Industry after several former TechAmerica public sector executives, including former Senior Vice President for Global Public Sector Trey Hodgkins, left abruptly for jobs at ITI. TechAmerica alleges some of those former employees stole valuable membership information.

Hettinger said his new employer assured him the organization was committed to its public sector operations and that he had no reservations about taking on the new job. "The reason I'm here is because this is the premier association. TechAmerica is doing things no one else can." He also noted that TechAmerica is in the process of hiring three additional public policy group personnel in the coming weeks who will work with him.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a staff writer at FCW.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

Reader comments

Fri, Jan 10, 2014

Although the Acquisition/Solicitation/Procurement process needs reform, it's the IT Systems Development Program Management and Higher Level Oversight that is mostly broken. Without knowledgeable and experienced PM that are capturing the metrics that keep a project on schedule, within budget and delivering quality; and a DOD 5000 type oversight construct that "keeps a PM on his or her toes," the Govt will NEVER efficiently manage lare MAIS systems!

Fri, Jan 10, 2014

When has legislation actually ever fixed anything? What is really needed is intergity and that can't be legislated.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group